I posted here recently on the topic of ‘What is LinkedIn?’ There’s not much reason to join LinkedIn unless you actually intend to use it to link to others to form a network. So today I’ll discuss some tips for building a network. I should mention that LinkedIn appears to have more members in high technology fields than other professions so you may want to keep that in mind when you’re looking to connect to people. As time goes on, that may change. But I’m sure LinkedIn will always favor those professions where on-line networking is valuable.
Here are some tips I have found helpful in growing a LinkedIn network:
1. Think of people you have worked with during your career and search for their names on LinkedIn. If you find them, request a link to them. There are a number of ways to do this, and if you’ve worked at the same company or went to the same school, then you don’t need to know the person’s current email address. If you do not have those affiliations, but know the person’s email address, then you can describe the person as ‘other’ or ‘friend’ and supply the email address when prompted. You should change the standard invitation text to personalize it a little.
2. Whenever someone from your past pops into your mind when you’re away from your computer, make a note to look them up on LinkedIn when you’re near a computer. This way you can re-connect with old friends and acquaintances you may have lost touch with over the years.
3. If you have a Rolodex or a collection of business cards, go through them as time permits and search for people with whom you would like to stay in touch.
4. You will probably get offers to join networks with someone you do not personally know who has 500 or more connections. Take them. This greatly expands your network and as such, your visibility on the LinkedIn network. People sometimes worry that taking connections from strangers puts them in an awkward position of possibly having to provide feedback about a stranger, but you’ll likely never be asked to do this, and if you are, you can just explain that you connected to the person as a courtesy.
5. Whenever you get a request to connect, you should accept it or archive it. You should not choose the ‘I don’t know this person’ option because if a person gets 5 of those, his account will be frozen. Most people are unaware of this and you don’t want to be the one who gets the person kicked off of LinkedIn.
6. If you find someone in your network who you’d like to connect with but don’t have an affiliation or email address, then you can request an introduction through someone in your network that is connected to that person. The top linked people with 500 or more connections are used to getting these requests and will nearly always pass them along to the person.
7. Periodically scan through the connections of your 1st level connections that have the potential for mutual connections. This is a good way to jog your memory and possibly reconnect with a long lost friend or colleague. Even if someone is already in your network as a 2nd or 3rd level connection, there is a benefit to making a 1st level connection with a person because it will pull more of his or her connections into your network.
8. If you want recommendations from your connections you will usually have to ask for them. Be prepared to write a recommendation for anyone from whom you request a recommendation. This means you should not ask for a recommendation from someone who you are not willing to recommend yourself. Otherwise you may find yourself in the awkward position of returning the favor for someone you may not know well enough to recommend, or, worse yet, someone for whom you cannot write a favorable recommendation.
9. List skills in your profile that you enjoy doing and are hoping to use again. You may not want to show up in searches for work that you are not interested in doing again so you might consider leaving those off your profile if that’s the case.
10. Become familiar with the ‘Advanced Search’ option which allows you to narrow down your search based on more specific criteria than just a person’s name.
11. If you have a blog or website, either put a link to your LinkedIn profile or an invitation to connect to you in a prominent location on the page. If you do invite readers to connect with you, encourage them to change the standard invitation text to something other than the generic, “Please join my LinkedIn Network”, by letting you know they found you from your blog or website.
Understand that not everyone from whom you request a connection will honor the request. Some may be following the LinkedIn policy of only connecting to people whom they’ve actually worked with and know well. Sometimes the invitation email gets trapped by a spam filter. Other times it may take a few weeks or even months for someone to discover the request. Don’t be discouraged if this happens on occasion.
This was just a small subset of tips for building your network on LinkedIn. If you do a Google search on the topic of “LinkedIn tips”, you’ll find many more.